New Neal Stephenson book in 2019

Many libertarian SF fans enjoy the fiction of Neal Stephenson. He has won the Prometheus Award twice, in 2016 for Seveneves and in 2005 for The System of the World. He also was awarded the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2013 for Cryptonomicon.

So it’s welcome news for many of us that Stephenson will have a new novel, Fall; Or, Dodge in Hell out on June 4, 2019.

From the publisher’s blurb:

In his youth, Richard “Dodge” Forthrast founded Corporation 9592, a gaming company that made him a multibillionaire. Now in his middle years, Dodge appreciates his comfortable, unencumbered life, managing his myriad business interests, and spending time with his beloved niece Zula and her young daughter, Sophia.

One beautiful autumn day, while he undergoes a routine medical procedure, something goes irrevocably wrong. Dodge is pronounced brain dead and put on life support, leaving his stunned family and close friends with difficult decisions. Long ago, when a much younger Dodge drew up his will, he directed that his body be given to a cryonics company now owned by enigmatic tech entrepreneur Elmo Shepherd. Legally bound to follow the directive despite their misgivings, Dodge’s family has his brain scanned and its data structures uploaded and stored in the cloud, until it can eventually be revived.

In the coming years, technology allows Dodge’s brain to be turned back on. It is an achievement that is nothing less than the disruption of death itself. An eternal afterlife—the Bitworld—is created, in which humans continue to exist as digital souls.

But this brave new immortal world is not the Utopia it might first seem . . .

Fall, or Dodge in Hell is pure, unadulterated fun: a grand drama of analog and digital, man and machine, angels and demons, gods and followers, the finite and the eternal. In this exhilarating epic, Neal Stephenson raises profound existential questions and touches on the revolutionary breakthroughs that are transforming our future. Combining the technological, philosophical, and spiritual in one grand myth, he delivers a mind-blowing speculative literary saga for the modern age.

Prometheus winners rank high on the Great American Read list – including Tolkien, Orwell and Rand

By Michael Grossberg
Several Prometheus-winning novels rank high in the Great American Read, suggesting that at least some significant aspects of individualist and libertarian/classical-liberal values remain at the core of popular American and worldwide culture.
Continue reading Prometheus winners rank high on the Great American Read list – including Tolkien, Orwell and Rand

Some love for L. Neil Smith at Tor.com

As part of a “bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books,” Alan Brown writes an appreciation of The Probability Broach by L. Neil Smith for Tor.com. (Smith won the Prometheus Award for the book in 1982.)

Brown writes, “Smith’s writing voice is witty, snarky, and entertaining, and there is always plenty of action to keep the story moving.”

Brown’s take on Smith’s libertarian philosophy: “In the early 1980s, I worked in a variety of jobs in Washington, D.C., and it was here that I encountered Smith’s work. During that time, spending an evening here and there reading a book set in worlds of free-wheeling anarchy was often a refreshing break from the sluggish bureaucracy I worked in during the days. While I am a political centrist myself, I always enjoy reading works that advocate different points of view, especially when they do so in an entertaining manner.”

 

 

Finding free ebooks by Robert Shea

By Tom Jackson

Writer Robert Shea (1933-1994) was a member of the Libertarian Futurist Society, a Playboy magazine editor and the co-author of Illuminatus!, which won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 1986.

He also wrote several entertaining historical novels, and his literary executor and son, Mike Shea, has decided to concentrate on distributing them as widely as possible. You can purchase them as used books and as ebooks, but Mike Shea also has made them available as free ebooks under a Creative Commons license. Here is a guide to what is available.

All Things Are Lights 

Set in the 12th century, All Things Are Lights is about a knight and troubadour named Roland. He gets himself into many adventures, including participating rather against his well in Crusades against the Cathars in southern France and the Muslims of Egypt, and also has a complicated love life.

As I’ve implied, All Things Are Lights can be read as a straightforward action novel. But as I’ve written elsewhere, “there is rather more material than I expected about secret societies and secret occult teachings. The Templars and Cathars feature prominently in the book, and Gnosticism, paganism, sexual tantra and the Assassins also are referenced. The book’s hero, Roland de Vency, has a skeptical attitude toward authority and an agnostic attitude toward religions.”

Simon Moon in Illuminatus! explains Shea’s title: “”An Irish Illuminatus of the ninth century, Scotus Ergina, put it very simply— in five words, of course —when he said Omnia quia sunt, lumina sunt: ‘All things that are, are lights.’ ”

I’ve read quite a few historical novels, and All Things Are Lights is one of my favorites. You can download it as an HTML file, which formats nicely on a Kindle ebook reader. The opening of the book draws you in.

Shaman

A frontier novel that focuses on Native Americans. Available as a free download in various formats from Project Gutenberg.

Saracen: Land of the Infidel and its sequel Saracen: The Holy War

The son of the main characters in All Things Are Lights is one of the characters in these two related novels. Available as free ebooks at Project Gutenberg.

Shike: Time of the Dragons and Shike: Last of the Zinja

Both of these books are set in medieval Japan.

Although it isn’t publicized on BobShea.net, the Wikipedia article on the Shike books has a link to a Creative Commons version of the two books.

(From a similar post at RAWIllumination.net, which has other articles on Shea).

“With Folded Hands …” Hall of Fame Award received by Williamson Collection

The Hall of Fame award for  “With Folded Hands …” by Jack Williamson has been received by the Jack Williamson Science Fiction Collection at the Eastern New Mexico University library. They just moved into a newly remodeled building, and will add it to their permanent display when they get more settled. For now, it’s comfortably resting between Williamson’s two Nebula awards.

The Encylopedia of Science Fiction has a long entry for Jack Williamson.

Travis Corcoran’s acceptance speech for ‘The Powers of the Earth’

Travis Corcoran

Travis Corcoran won the Prometheus Award for his excellent novel, The Powers of the Earth. He couldn’t make it to the Worldcon for this weekend’s awards ceremony, but here is the text of his acceptance speech, read by Chris Hibbert. 

I’m sorry I couldn’t be here tonight, but I live on a farm and it’s harvest season in the Granite State. Live free or die!

I first heard of the Prometheus Award a quarter century ago and put “writing a novel worthy of winning it” on my bucket list. It was an amazing honor to be nominated alongside so many other worthy authors, and I can still barely wrap my head around having won.

Eric S Raymond said it best: “Hard SF is the vital heart of the field”. The core of hard science fiction is libertarianism: “ornery and insistent individualism, veneration of the competent man, instinctive distrust of coercive social engineering”.
Continue reading Travis Corcoran’s acceptance speech for ‘The Powers of the Earth’

What Do You Mean ‘Libertarian’?

A bust of J.R.R. Tolkien in the chapel of Exeter College, Oxford. (Creative Commons photo). 

By William H. Stoddard

The Prometheus Award has been given annually since 1982, and the Hall of Fame Award since 1983. All through the twenty-first century, lists of four to six finalists have been announced for each award. And for much of that time, online comments on the nominations and awards have often questioned their rationale.  There have been comments suggesting that the awards could go to virtually any book, or to winners that have no libertarian content, or indeed are actively opposed to libertarianism.

“Virtually any book” is an exaggeration. There are any number of compelling books whose themes aren’t political: The Island of Dr. Moreau, At the Mountains of Madness, and Ringworld are all examples. Even past winners of the Prometheus Award have written such books, such as Michael Flynn’s brilliantly tragic The Wreck of The River of Stars. There are also books written from viewpoints opposed to libertarianism, such as Star Maker or the Foundation series. I think it’s safe to say that none of these could have been a Best Novel nominee, or can be expected to be a Hall of Fame nominee.
Continue reading What Do You Mean ‘Libertarian’?

Literary snobbery at the ‘Paris’ Review

Johanna Sinisalo holds her Prometheus Award. (Photo by Ryan Lackey). 

The Paris Review has a new article up, “How Finland Rebranded Itself as a Literary Country,” which purports to tell the story of how Finnish writers have acquired an international reputation.

But the article’s author, Kalle Oskari Mattila, seems to be determined to make sure that neither the science fiction community nor the Prometheus Award will receive any credit for the growing attention to Finnish writing.

The article includes a photograph Johanna Sinisalo and a brief description of her novel, The Core of the Sun. But it doesn’t mention that she received the Prometheus Award in 2017 for the book — likely the first time the award has gone to someone who isn’t an Anglo-American author.

Similarly, the article leaves out the fact that Sinisalo was one of the guests of honor for the first-ever Finnish worldcon in 2017, which drew 7,119 people. Sinisalo was given her Prometheus Award at the convention, and the award helped demonstrate that she was a guest of honor on her merits, and not just because she happens to be Finnish. The worldcon was one of the biggest ever in terms of attendance and certainly helped shine a spotlight on Finnish writers.

I thought this sort of literary snobbery had gone away but the “Paris”
Review (actually published in New York) apparently wants to take it into the 21st Century.

— Tom Jackson

Sf giant Harlan Ellison has died

Harlan Ellison (Creative Commons photo)

Award-winning author Harlan Ellison has died. He was 84. Wikipedia biography here. 

Ellison won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award in 2015 for his short story, “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman.” He made a gracious video to thank us. 

Continue reading Sf giant Harlan Ellison has died

Review: Avengers: Infinity War


Robert Downey Jr., who portrays Tony Stark/Iron Man, at San Diego Comic Con International in 2014. (Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore). 

By William H. Stoddard

The films that make up the Marvel Cinematic Universe are an unusual, and possibly unique artistic project: a cinematic series set in a shared fictional universe, one that develops from film to film, with later films referring to earlier. Of course there have been trilogies and other series of films, but this design not only is at a greater length, but has multiple branches following different groups of characters. There’s a main storyline that began with The Avengers and progressed through Captain America: The Winter Soldier, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Civil War, and The Black Panther, but other films have told different types of stories: a mock epic in Guardians of the Galaxy, a caper film in Ant-Man, and a story of supernatural initiation in Doctor Strange, for example.
The latest film, The Avengers: The Infinity War, attempts to bring these all together into a climactic story—or at least, the first half of one; it ends with a cliffhanger. I went into the theater not sure this film would be worth seeing, and I can see some flaws in it, largely reflecting the vast differences in tone among the earlier films; but the overall result was impressive and moving. And I think this largely reflects the central role of theme in the script.
Continue reading Review: Avengers: Infinity War